Actors Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan were guests at the Express Adda in Mumbai last week. In a discussion moderated by Deputy Editor Seema Chishti, they spoke on the pressures of stardom, gender equality in the film industry and why Bollywood actors don\u2019t speak up. On the pressures of being in the limelight Anushka: You can\u2019t step out to do anything without being clicked somewhere. You feel like you\u2019re constantly being judged. There are a lot of preconceived notions about what an actor is like. When I said before that I struggled, what I was also trying to say was that I struggled because I was trying to be something and I didn\u2019t know what that something was. I realised after three years that I was just going to be the way I was. I\u2019ve learned to deal with the attention and constant judgment that happens. It\u2019s something you have to get used to when you\u2019re a known person, especially an actor. A lot of times we\u2019re not taken seriously. Varun: I got positioned as an entertainer and it was difficult for me emotionally because 24\/7, I have to have this smile on my face. I\u2019m not like that off-screen. My mother keeps complaining that I only smile when I\u2019m out. Today, with the increasing amount of media, I have people clicking my photos all the time. I don\u2019t want that invasion of privacy. Sometimes, you\u2019re doing three films a year, plus ads and events. I\u2019m grateful for that but it\u2019s easy to get burnt out in today\u2019s day and age. Anushka: Sometimes, we have people come up to us and they don\u2019t ask for a picture and just talk about some film we did. I can't tell you what that feels like. It is the biggest compliment that they don\u2019t ask for a picture and just talk about our film. Sometimes, it\u2019s just \u2018Can I get a selfie\u2019, and we give a selfie and it is done. A lot of journalists also openly ask about things which are not concerning our work. It\u2019s only on that Friday that we really get to show and tell people that this is what we are living for. We only get to do that when our film is in theatres. On breaking the mould Anushka: There were, maybe, four films in which I played these bubbly characters and people said that this is all I do. But, even before, people started saying that I didn\u2019t want to do them. When you\u2019re a newcomer, you\u2019re not offered so many roles. You can only choose out of the options you have and those were the options that I had. I wanted to do different roles and that happened only with NH10 (2015), which was the first film that I produced. The films I was doing also started changing for various other reasons. I started doing roles that were different and there started my need to constantly redefine myself as an actor. Varun: It is not easy to do anything if you want to do it well. I\u2019ll give you two examples. In Main Tera Hero (2014), we kept breaking the fourth wall. A lot of great actors have done it in the past. What I\u2019m trying to do \u2014 even when I was doing masala films \u2014 is something new. Even when I was was doing masala films, I didn\u2019t want to do the same thing that people had seen superstars in the past do. I was trying to communicate to the younger audience at that time. I like this zone and I am also trying to reach out to the masses \u2014 \u2018This film is for you, too. I am your guy too\u2019. In case of Badlapur, the story struck a chord with me. Sriram Raghavan is someone I always wanted to work with. So is Shoojit Sircar. I have gone to them and said: \u2018Sir, cast me, I\u2019ll audition, I\u2019ll do whatever it takes to be a part of your vision\u2019. On women-centric films and stories Anushka: There have been many strong female characters that have been portrayed earlier, but then there was a phase when we were doing a lot of song-and-dance kind of films. In the present times, when Raazi (2018) and Veere Di Wedding (2018) do well at the box office, there is some kind of precedence that has been set over the years for something like this to happen. The audience has become more diverse. Today, you can do a NH10 and then a popular film like Sultan (2016). People are vocal about women-centric roles now. Varun: Whenever we discuss stars or superstars, we rank the male actors first. If we start celebrating the stardom, acting and abilities of our female actors, it\u2019s going to take the pressure off the male actors. The more actors people watch, the better it is for the industry. We\u2019ve had the most amount of `100-crore grossing films in 2018. That\u2019s not only because of the male actors. On social media and fans Varun: I still handle my social media myself. It was very exciting when it started but, now, the medium, in fact, all mediums, have become very manipulative. It is easier to buy views, it is easier to make anything trend and everyone can see through that. But something like pure fan love is good. Like the way it happened with our film Sui Dhaga (2018) and the memes on Anushka\u2019s character, Mamta, came up. I enjoy Insta stories the most on social media. I usually put out dance videos or music I enjoy because most of my target audience is children. Anushka: It\u2019s a very personal relationship that you have with social media and you should decide how it is that you want to use it. How much do you want to engage? How much you want to put your life out there? I announced getting married over there so that\u2019s the kind of personal relationship you can have with your fans directly. But, at the same time, you are also at the receiving end of a lot of hatred, which, I think, is just not because you are an actor but because people are so quick to hate today. On Bollywood taking a stand Varun: We\u2019ve seen the biggest of stars take political positions and we\u2019ve seen what\u2019s happened. When they land in trouble, no one helps. It only becomes a show for journalists. We don\u2019t want to take out morchas on the streets. Anushka: Don\u2019t expect us to comment on everything happening in the country. As much as you\u2019d like us to believe that people value our opinion, they don\u2019t take us too seriously. Often, whatever we say ends up becoming a part of someone\u2019s agenda. Instead, I will do this through my films. I will ask myself if the woman I am playing represents women correctly or is she being shown in a regressive way? I haven\u2019t done a single item number, for example. But I don\u2019t want to be on a political debate on TV. Varun: It\u2019s important to raise voice for the good. The tagline \u2018Made in India\u2019 of our film, Sui Dhaga, is an example. There isn\u2019t anything wrong in it just because the current government supports it. Through this film, we are supporting local goods and artistes.